Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of
traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written
and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D. and distributed by the Family
Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., fafonline.org. Reprint is available
with written permission from the Foundation.
Gossip needn’t be false to be evil—there’s a lot of truth that should not be
Frank A. Clark, US Congressman
A recent interview with the father of a man who died in the tragedy of Malaysia
Flight 17 revealed that he learned of his son’s death when he saw it on a local
woman’s Facebook page. MH 17 went down July 17, 2014, near the
Russian-Ukraine border, killing all 298 on board.
Following their protocol, the local officials had not been able to make formal
death notification by the following morning. Yet a woman from the same town,
who believed the man to be on the flight, posted the news a few hours after
she heard of the crash, including the fact that there was no chance of survivors.
In another interview involving a kidnapping of several men, family members
felt violated by one individual’s use of social media. The FBI was working with
the company to bring the men safely home and put an end to the crime. In the
daily briefing with the families, they instructed them to avoid putting information
on Facebook or any other type of social media. They emphasized that any
deviation from their instructions could jeopardize their efforts and cause the men
to be murdered. One family member decided to post the story on her personal
Facebook page and ask for prayer for the men along with support for her and
their families. She was shocked when, early the following morning, the press
was at her door. She learned that news of the kidnapping and all of the men’s names
were being broadcast all over media. When asked by the FBI why she disobeyed
their instructions, she defended her actions claiming that it was her personal page
and not open to others, including the press. Unfortunately, she learned the hard
way that her page was in fact not protected. Fortunately, the men were released
safely and returned home but, in her need to share all of her personal news, she
could have caused death for the men, despite the officials’ clear directive to
avoid social media.
Both of these are examples of how using social media to broadcast news of
personal interest may be harmful. In the first case, the father was denied receiving
the news of his son’s death by the sensitive, personal and official contact that would
have happened had he been told in person. While it is customary today that an
airline will confirm names on a manifest as quickly as they can, official death
notification follows positive victim identification and is delivered in person by police
officials—not over the internet.
In this second case, involving the kidnapping, old-fashioned telephone calls and
private conversations with trusted friends would not have been discovered by the
press—unlike what happens when one chooses to broadcast news over the internet.
A tongue has no bones but it can break a heart. So be careful with your words.
Those in leadership positions may need to remind team members to avoid
posting any information about a response they are managing. Corporate
Communications is dedicated to using social media in a way that supports all of
those involved, including the survivors and the efforts of the Care Team and other
helpers. Perhaps all who use social media for personal communication purposes
should think twice before posting news that might harm another.
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